In St. Helens, timber is a valuable commodity for the city and the sale of the city-owned timber plots bring in cash to sustain and boost community and economic development.
Following a successful Milton Creek Watershed timber sale in February, St. Helens has awarded a bid to sell more timber this year.
The St. Helens City Council approved preparing a Douglas fir timber sale of around 92 acres in the Salmonberry property. The Salmonberry property is a sustainably managed tree farm off Pittsburg Road and the cut represents approximately 3.8% of the 2,500 acre property.
The city received four bids on the timber price and approved the sale to the highest bidder on May 2.
During the last timber sale, Brent Keller, associate at the city-contracted forest management firm Mason, Bruce & Girard, told city councilors the price for timber is higher now than it has been in the past.
“Prices right now are well above the five-year average,” Keller said, and that prices were at an all-time high last summer. If the city chooses to sell 50 acres of timber, he said there could be $625,000 in income.
A 2020 timber sale, which spanned 66 acres, netted just under $1.4 million in income. Mills in the small log market are paying competitive timber prices, Keller said, largely due to the strong housing market. Small logs are typically produced into dimension lumber that is used in the construction industry. Most of St. Helens timber is small Douglas fir saw logs.
The city councilors and Mayor Rick Scholl agreed that it would be good for the city to take advantage of the competitive market and sell off the city’s excess timber plots.
“We have so many big projects going on, and the market seems right,” Scholl said. “I’m not saying cut all the timber and not all the watershed, we’re talking a small fraction of the watershed. He recommended two cuts of about 100 acres, and I would like to go with what he recommended knowing we have projects in mind.”
The Salmonberry plot is an extension of the city’s plan to sell 100 acre plots, and the bids represent the predicted market. As a recovery timber sale, the buyer will be responsible for the total amount of dollars, which is obtained by multiplying the bid price per thousand board feet by the volume recovered, according to the bid announcement. The highest and winning bid was from Interfor US Timber Inc, a national lumber and timber producer. They placed a bid of $653.36—each bid is considered to be the dollars per 1,000 feet of Timber.
In comparison, the other two bids considered in the final vote were from Pelham Cutting Inc at $576 and Stimson Lumber at $573.02. The lower bids are a discrepancy of approximately $150,000 (when multiplying the bid by the total feet of lumber) from the Interfor bid, City Administrator John Walsh told the council.
“Right now, the market is really strange with a glut of lumber and shortage of timber, and Interfor … has the horsepower to move that kind of timber, the other smaller, more local players just don’t have that resource,” Walsh said. “We’ve been really strategic about when we sell timber to try to hit the tops of the market, and this is really a good number.”
It’s not the highest bid that the city has voted on in the past, but “it’s still a really good price,” according to Walsh. The bid is lower than a timber sale the city made in 2018 but higher than the last sale in February.
By June 3, all of the estimated total value of timber to be cut from the contracted area must be paid by Interfor to the city. According to Walsh, the Salmonberry timber should yield more than $1.8M though there are expenses related to management and reforestation not calculated. The timber revenues are held in the City’s Community Development Fund which supports community and economic development projects.
These projects, said Walsh, include activities to further the Riverfront Redevelopment Project and local job creation efforts at the St. Helens Industrial Business Park among other investments.